ATLANTA (WDRB) — Louisville lost the game, but it found its quarterback.

Lamar Jackson wasn’t the official QB starter in Saturday’s 31-24 loss to No. 6-ranked Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at the Georgia Dome, but he did take the first snap, was flushed to his right and made a bad decision, putting a ball up for grabs that was intercepted to set up Auburn’s first score.

It was an inauspicious start, not unlike Teddy Bridgewater’s first pass at U of L.

But after an Auburn scoop-and-score made it 14-0 in the second quarter, Jackson came in and didn’t look back. He was decisive in his runs, threw the ball enough to keep the Auburn defense honest, and perhaps most importantly gave U of L signs of life after it fell behind 24-0.

He finished the game with 106 yards rushing on 16 carries. He also completed 9 of 20 passes for 100 yards.

Louisville’s offensive line got very little accomplished in the game, and its defensive front seven was pushed around for much of the second half.

But the Cardinals kept in the game with a trio of interceptions — two by Georgia transfer Josh Harvey-Clemons in his U of L debut.

Auburn’s first two scores came as the result of the game-opening interception, which set the Tigers up at the Louisville 26, and Justin Garret’s recovery of a fumbled exchange between Reggie Bonnafon and running back Jeremy Smith. Garrett rambled 82 yards with the return, and Bonnafon left the game, perhaps because he didn’t make an attempt to chase down the return.

Whatever the reason, Jackson got the ball from that point on, and the longer he played, the more comfortable he looked.

Auburn steamrolled the Cardinals for scores on its first two possessions of the second half, but then the Cardinals started to look like the more lively offensive team.

Down 31-10, they drove 75 yards in 11 plays for a Brandon Radcliff 2-yard touchdown run. Jackson ran for 27 yards on the drive and passed for 24.

After getting the ball back following an Auburn punt, Jackson hit freshman Devante Peete for a 35-yard completion to put U of L on the Auburn 46. And he hit a big third-down conversion completion to Traveon Samuel to keep a drive alive.

He faced a fierce up-the-middle rush on the Cards next several plays, then on fourth-and-10, ran a zone read up the middle for 11 yards.

After overthrowing a fade route to Peete, he ran to the Auburn 2-yard line, and Radcliff carried it in on the next play to pull U of L within 31-24 with 2:59 left in the game.

Jackson was decisive in his runs, which was fortunate for Louisville, because he found himself flushed out of the backfield quite often.

Jackson might have gotten one more chance, but after an Auburn holding call made it 3rd and 12, Louisville inexplicably burned its final timeout. After a running play, Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson simply took the fourth down snap with five seconds left, ran around and heaved a pass downfield to end it. It wouldn't have bought the Cardinals a great deal more time, but Petrino could've saved his timeout, and if his team held on third down, could've called it before the fourth down play to get the ball back with a few ticks left. Either way, it was a longshot for a team whose longest gain on the night was 35 yards.


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